Extend Your Battery Life With Powertop

By | 2008/06/19

If you use a Linux laptop and have not heard of PowerTop you really need to keep reading!  This is a fantastic tool for extending your battery life written and published by Intel.  I use it constantly on long flights and my battery lasts long enough for a cross-country flight.

Installing Powertop

PowerTop is available in the Ubuntu repositories so its a really easy installation:

sudo aptitude install powertop

Once you’ve got it installed start things up using:

sudo powertop

This application will scan your machine for 5 seconds and then tell you which hardware or application is causing the most drain on your machine.  The best part about it is that it’ll offer you suggestions along with shortcut keys to disable the feature or hardware in order to conserve power!

Some of the common things that powertop suggests disabling on my machine are bluetooth, wireless and add-on storage (cdrom, usb-devices, etc).  Disabling these few things can extend my battery up to an hour (depending on the software I’m running, of course).

I really suggest checking out powertop for any laptop user.  It should be part of your base installation setup.  What luck have you had with powertop?  How long can you extend your battery life?

10 thoughts on “Extend Your Battery Life With Powertop

  1. Phil

    So, I’ve played with PowerTop. Is there a way to make the PowerTop recommendations persistent? I’ve added some recommendations to /etc/rc.local, but after rebooting and re-running PowerTop, the same recommendations come up.

    Any suggestions? I think that it would be great to be able to have an option within PowerTop to make the recommendations persistent after they have been interactively applied.


  2. Alex

    I agree with Phil. I’ve had Powertop ever since Phoronix covered it a few months ago I guess. But Every time I run it I get the same suggestions. All I have to do is run it, do all it suggests, press q to quit and run it again all in the same terminal session and it offers the same things (which suggests it never did what I asked in the first place). I obviously run it with sudo so it should have privs to do whatever it needs to…

    How do I know it’s done what it’s supposed to? And how do I get it to be more persistent? Do I have to leave it running in the background to save power?

  3. Christer Edwards Post author

    Persistent changes to many of the values would not be something that most users want. For example, if it disables your wireless while on battery you don’t want that to be a persistent change, meaning wireless is now off long-term.

    The changes will be valid as long as you have the application open, so I generally run it and then minimize it. Once you quit they revert.

    You might check out http://www.lesswatts.org/tips/ for tips on manually setting persistent values.

  4. Patrick

    Do I have to run sudo powertop anytime when I boot my laptop? Or saves Powertop the settings somewhere?

  5. Christer Edwards Post author

    @Patrick – anytime you want it to apply any power saving options you’ll need to run ‘sudo powertop’. The options are only valid as long as the application is open as well (see above comments).

  6. Al

    Christer: I see your point. And to be honest, after submitting that comment I suddenly though a completely persistent change really wouldn’t be good. But maybe persistent for the log-on session would be useful. It’s just such a shame to load the app, let it tell me what I need to turn off, let it do it, and then minimize it. I mean, it must be taking up a few of my cycles by constantly monitoring my cycles, right? And that’s just one small gripe. I guess I could shove it over to a virtual desktop I’m not using. My other gripe is that a minimized window gets in my way!

  7. Al

    And, not that this is the place to complain about this, but shouldn’t it be *fewer* watts? fewer watts, or less wattage/power. But less watts. That gets at me too! 🙂

  8. e4c5

    though you need a laptop/notebook to make the maximum out of powertop, even desktop users can benefit from it. Most of us with linux desktops rarely shut it down and powertop can help us identify processes that waste energy.

  9. dalaidakkar

    I just found with this program that emesene drains a lot of power instead use pidgin for battery saving runs on nice and quiet at the bottom of the list

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